Road Test: Lexus RX 350 F Sport
The most popular Lexus vehicle, the RX midsize luxury crossover, got some refinements for 2013, but the biggest news is the addition of the first performance-oriented model: the F Sport.
That's the one Lexus brought us to test on a recent week. Although it's no speedster -- it has the same engine as the base RX 350 -- it has extras that make it stand out, including an eight-speed automatic transmission, special 19-inch wheels and a custom leather interior.
Base price of the F Sport is just above $47,000, and it's available only with all-wheel drive. It's aimed at people who want sportier performance, something critics have said was lacking in previous RX models.
The transmission comes with manual paddle shifters on the steering wheel. The alloy wheels with dark graphite finish are very cool-looking, and they're outfitted with 235/55R19 tires.
Also included on the F Sport are a unique front bumper and a mesh grille.
The F Sport also comes with a sport-tuned suspension with front and rear performance dampers; and the Lexus Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management setup, a computerized controller for the electronic stability, traction control and anti-lock braking systems.
Under the hood of all RX 350 models is a 3.5-liter V-6 engine with 270 horsepower and 248 foot-pounds of torque. No higher-power engine is available for the F Sport model, but there is plenty of power with the 3.5-liter, and the eight-speed transmission shifts smoothly and offers peppy acceleration in lower gears.
The electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system automatically shifts power from front to rear, as much as 50 percent, to provide sure starts and keep the vehicle going on slippery surfaces. Otherwise, all torque goes to the front wheels.
With the eight-speed transmission, the F Sport has EPA ratings of 18 miles per gallon city/26 highway.
The front seats of my F Sport were quite comfortable, and there was a spot in the center console between the front seats for my smartphone, and a USB port inside the console to connect it to the great 15-speaker, 330-watt Mark Levinson audio system.
The tester also had in-dash navigation system, which comes with the Lexus Enform service that is similar to General Motors' OnStar; a blind-spot monitor; a heads-up display showing digital speed readout on the bottom of the windshield; "intuitive" parking assist; and a rear cargo net.
2013 LEXUS RX 350 F SPORT
Base price: $39,660
Price as tested: $53,029
Length: 187.8 inches
Curb weight range: 4,510 pounds
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6; one or two electric-drive motors
Power/torque: 270 horsepower/248 pound-feet (gasoline models); 295 hp (hybrid, combined gasoline and electric)
Cargo volume: 40 cubic feet (rear seat in place)
Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds
EPA fuel economy rating: 18 mpg city/26 highway
Bottom line: F Sport model adds spice to RX 350.